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PDF of Lesson Twenty-seven
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Effective Parenting for Domestic Violence Class
By Yvonne Sinclair M.A., LMFT
Communication is the most important aspect of any relationship. Changing a behavior is not easy. We have communicated in a certain way since birth. Changing that method of behavior may take concentration and time. The change could mean we become more effective in letting others know our needs and feelings. When you are upset with the other parent, bitter about the anger and treatment, or feeling revengeful, calm effective communication may turn into aggressive, abusive, or inappropriate statements.
Adopting a new way of communication can be tedious. If you went to the dentist and the dentist told you that the way you have brushed your teeth for years and years was all wrong. You are told “don’t brush up and down…..brush down down down on the top and up up up on the bottom.” Changing that method will mean you need to slow down and concentrate. At first the new behavior seems strange and difficult. After you practice for a while the new method becomes more and more familiar and soon it is as automatic as the old way.
It will be the same with changing your way of communication. You will need to slow down and pay attention. The hardest part will be including the partner you are no longer with. Both parents will need to change the way they communication with each other and the child to assure the child is not damaged by their interaction.
Sometimes we learn behaviors in childhood, especially if we have had a difficult childhood, that help us to survive the childhood. We can acknowledge for ourselves the behaviors worked for us in childhood but are now getting in the way of relationship success. With this in mind, it would be appropriate to mention you child may be developing or have developed those kind of coping skills. Changing the way you interact with each other will help this child feel secure in the fact you, as adults, can take care of things in a healthy manner.
If we learn to communicate in an effective way any issue can be resolved. This does not mean the resolution will be positive, it can mean the issue is put to rest and not hashed over again and again.
If the communication is effective the chance of working through issues and making the relationship work is much higher. Sometimes couples come to see me and they have been having routine disagreements and arguments. Once they slow down and listen they begin to realize they are on the same page. They learn the concept of “different” not right and wrong. This is essential with co-parenting. You will have different households and, perhaps, different life partners. Your child will experience those changes each time he/she visits the other parent. Keeping up with the differences can be, in the least, irritating for your child. When the two parents begin to agree and resolve issues, the child need no longer to worry about them and can concentrate on getting accustomed to the differences in each household.
If one of you has to be “right” and one “wrong” you are setting yourself up for failure. Think about agreeing to disagree. Think about allowing the other person a difference. Think about slowing down and really listening to your partner’s words and feelings. The formula for communication in this chapter will help you with that new behavior.
Communication is the key to letting others know how we feel and what are our needs. We communicate in many ways. Our body language and our walk can communicate who we are, how we are feeling, and our health. Our eyes communicate feelings and opinions, our sighs or groans communicate. The way we touch or do not touch tells others about us. Our words are not the only communication tools we use. With this in mind, watching your tone, body position, and actions will also assist your child in feeling secure.
Sometimes children feel a need to “take care of” parents. The more you do not get along, the more the child feels they need to be in charge. This may be demonstrated in aggressive behaviors, sassy responses, and angry expression that is not appropriate. If the child feels they need to diffuse the situation, they may act out to take the attention. In this way the parents stop arguing and yell at them. It sounds unlikely, but this is exactly what some children do to “fix” the arguing by parents.
This program will deal with learning to use our words to communicate in a way others can hear and in a way we will also feel heard. In an assertive way that gets our needs and wishes heard and perhaps met in a healthy way. Remember, you may agree to disagree…there is no wrong….just right and right. You can experience the same event and have a totally different memory of the event. Not right and wrong but different.
Communication can be aggressive, passive, assertive or passive aggressive.
Here is an example of the different communication patterns.
You are sitting at dinner and want the salt-
Aggressive Communication example: Aggressive communication style will mean you are trying to get your needs met through force-verbal, emotional, or physical. Here is what your statement will sound like….bossy and loud; “Can't you stupid people pass the salt!" Aggressive styles of communication can feel violent. Yelling and swearing and calling names is a form of violence.
Passive Communication example: When you communicate in a passive manner there may not be a statement. Or you may hint at what you need. You sit quietly wishing someone would pass the salt.
Assertive Communication example: When you communicate assertively you increase the chance of getting your needs met without hurting anyone else or using force. This is what an assertive statement would sound like; “Would someone please pass me the salt?”
An example of Passive Aggressive style; your boss asks you to file some things and filing is not your job. You are irritated and file them all wrong. Passive is unhealthy communication in that it is VICTIM thinking and not being proactive about our own need.
Some people have the talent of mind reading, but most of us are not able to read another’s mind. So, even though someone loves you so much they probably cannot read your mind. Passive style of communication relies on the wish our mind can be read and our needs magically be taken care of.
It is your responsibility to ask for your own needs. This is assertive communication and is also the healthy form of communication. Assertive communication gets us what we need or want without hurting anyone. With this in mind, when one parent needs something that may not be the usual request, asking in an assertive manner will help the request be heard.
We listen and talk through our “life filters”. Life filters are ways we learn to speak, listen, express anger, and other communication methods. Here is a little story to help you understand “life filters”.
John grew up in Sweden. When he graduated from college he moved to New York to work. He was there about six months before he became really home sick.
One morning he was riding the subway to work when a blond woman got on the same car. He was struck with the beauty of her blondness and it increased his being home sick….Oh he did miss Sweden and all the Swedish blondness.
As they stepped off the car they were next to each other and John turned to Kate and said, “you have beautiful hair.” Now Kate grew up in the Broncs and when someone mentioned her hair it was to indicate they thought she was an “air head blond person.”
Kate could have given John a wicked eye and stomped off to work telling her co-workers about the “jerk” on the subway. John would then have really wanted to go home and talked to his co-workers about the rude woman he had complemented on the way to work.
But, this is my story, so here is how it goes. Kate turns to John and says (this is reflective listening-a clue for you later) “What you think I am an airhead?” John was a little shocked and said “No, I think your hair is beautiful and it makes me lonely for my home, Sweden.” Well Kate and John had lunch…and got married and lived happily ever after…..Yea!
There is so much between lunch and happily ever after. It would be like a story that goes like this. Once upon a time there was a man with a pile of sticks. He built a house. It was a good house. Lot of work between the pile of sticks and the house….just like there is a lot of work and paying attention between the lunch and happily ever after.
Relationships take time and energy and feeding and nurturing. They are a living breathing entity. You can have wonderful, just okay, cold nothingness, or abusive. You choose. If you are co-parenting, it may mean your communication as a couple was not effective. Changing that now may seem ridiculous. You are no longer working on a relationship as a couple. You are, however, working on a relationship that will assure your child is nurtured in a positive manner and not harmed because the two of you decided to go separate ways.
This program gives you tools to build a strong healthy growing relationships. This communication format can be used in all areas of your life. It is especially effective with children. f you put the tools in the toolbox and leave them there nothing changes. It is totally up to you.
LETS START THE FOUNDATION OF OUR RELATIONSHIP
The next section will give you a format for basic communication. This format is so simple and yet so hard. A simple formula to express yourself. But you have been expressing yourself your way since you were born. Learning a new way to communicate is like learning a new dance, or how to brush your teeth a totally different way. It takes attention, practice, and hanging in there until you have it and it becomes automatic. Like dancing, or riding a bike, or learning a new computer program.
The format will help you to talk to someone else without your finger wagging at him or her. It will help you identify your own feelings when certain events happen. It will help you identify your own needs and wishes. So, it is more for you than for them.
The second part of the format will teach “reflective listening”. This will slow you down so you are actually listening to the speaker instead of thinking of what you will say next. It will then tell the speaker if you have heard the statement they way it was intended to be heard.
You say-“Could you help me with the yard this weekend?”
Your significant other hears- “You never do anything!”
So reflective listening means the significant other will say, “What I hear you say is I am Lazy.” And you will clarify “No I just wanted to be sure we were both available for yard work this weekend.”
Our life filters help or hinder our communication, both speaking and hearing. As
with John and Kate we may hear something totally different than the speaker intended. The speaker is not wrong and the listener is not wrong – no wrong, notice?
The next page contains the Communication Guide. You may want to copy this and use it to write on. Keep a clean one to make other copies. Make at least two copies so each of you can have one. Use this communication format to talk to your child. Share it with them. It may help them express the frustrations they are having with your separation. This tool is an excellent tool to talk to anyone, your kids, your boss, your mother, your father, sister, well you get the idea.
First person-person “A”;
I Feel_______________________________(emotional feeling)
See attached “feelings cheat sheet”
And I want___________________________
(Keep it short and to the point. This identifies for you what feeling comes up when something happens, why they come up and your own needs.)
Second person-Person” B”;
What I hear you say is_______________________________
(This is “reflective listening” you state back the jest of what you heard or the emotion you heard. Keep it short). Then if that is not what A meant for you to hear, person A will say NO and repeat the statement trying to change it in a way that person A’s meaning can be heard better.
We talk and listen through our life filters. What one person says and intends to be heard may be totally different than the receiver hears. SO the reflective listening confirms if the message was heard in the way the speaker intended.
It would be great if you could get together two or three time and practice this format. If that is not possible, practicing with someone else will help you to get the rhythm of this communication style. Each person taking turns being A and being B. Keep the hooks out of your statements. Example; “You are wearing the dress I gave you, (hook) finally.”
Keep the statements about yourself and your feelings…not about the other person’s shortcomings. Keep this clear in all the sections of this exercise.
The “I feel” part needs to be an emotion…not a physical feeling or a “think” use your cheat sheet and take your time. Some people are not in touch with their emotions. Feelings just are they are not right and wrong. They are not good or bad. Oh yes they feel good or bad. Feelings are always there. They are sometime quiet and calm and not real obvious. Sometimes they are like a hurricane. But, you are always feeling something. If you have trouble getting in touch with your feelings, practice all through the day-ask yourself every few minutes or on the hour “what am I feeling now!”
“Because” will help to identify for us and our listener why we are feeling this way. Again, keep it short.
“And I want,” will tell what you really want, instead of the event or more of the event. This is how it will sound when done correctly;
When -you come home and start yelling
I feel- angry
Because -I am tired too and we are in this together
And I want- to know what you need to make your mood different, because I want a peaceful evening too
This how it will sound when done “wrong”;
When -you come home and start your nasty yelling
I feel-like throwing up my hands in disgust
Because -you are always (always and never are a clue this is out of control and not on track) yelling and never take my into consideration
And I want -you to stop your loud mouth
Do you see the difference? The first is about you and your feeling and what you want. The second is an attack on your SO (significant other.)
Remember-You get what you notice! That is true in any relationship. If you continue to notice only the negative you will get more of that. If you acknowledge the positive and the behaviors you want to see more, you will get an increase in those behaviors. This is especially true with co-parenting. Not only with each other, but with your child. Notice the positive, what you want more of, and you will get more of that.
Practice makes perfect.
You will not use this new communication formula when you get upset if you have not practiced and are comfortable with the rhythm and how the words go together and are in touch with your feelings. You will not go into the appropriate format if you have not practiced enough to make the new behavior feel automatic. Practice together, at least two or three times, and practice with other people in your life.
Old habits of survival, or old ways that are more familiar and easy will take over and your progress will suffer. So, give yourself and your child the gift of change and growth. Your child learns how to behave by watching and modeling after you. I like the parenting book entitled; How to Behave So Your Kids Will Too. You don’t have to read the book, just the title.
Give yourself the gift of new beginnings. Give yourself the gift of happiness. You have separated to find happiness, this new way of communication will assist in that search. Practice expressing in a way others can hear what you need them to hear. Practice expressing in a way that helps you identify what is happening for you. This new way of expressing will work for you in all of your relationships, parenting, employment, friendship, significant other relationships, even with casual contacts.
Remember, you learned to communicate in your family of origin where you grew up. You learn to express anger, ignore or talk about it, scream or pout etc. Your child is learning about communication by watching and listening to you. Give them a great example.
Congratulations for your courage to change yourself and your learned behaviors. My best to you both and your child. Remember practice makes perfect, anything worth having is worth working for, old habits die hard. Yes some of those old sayings are actually right on.
Copyright 2011. All material contained herein is owned and protected. Any attempts to reproduce this information without the express written consent from the owner will be prosecuted.
Congratulations, you are finished with the twenty seventh lesson on domestic violence and co-parenting.
When you complete the four questions for Lesson 27 Quiz you will be automatically given Lesson 28.
LESSON Twenty-seven QUIZ